Norwich City 1, West Ham 2
CHRIS LAKEY Norwich City's first home appearance of the summer ended in defeat- but Peter Grant proved beyond doubt that his patient chase for goalkeeper David Marshall was worth the trouble.
Norwich 1, West Ham United 2
Norwich City's first home appearance of the summer ended in defeat- but Peter Grant proved beyond doubt that his patient chase for goalkeeper David Marshall was worth the trouble.
Marshall had shown enough during his short loan spell last season to convince the City boss to make him his number one summer target. And inside of just 15 minutes last night he produced enough quality stops to last a season.
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A stunning save from Bobby Zamora's bullet header from Luis Boa Morte's sixth-minute corner set the tone, Marshall pouncing low to his left.
But if that was brilliant, then the save a minute later when Zamora's cross from the right set up Mark Noble from close range was little short of incredible, as a prone Marshall stuck out a hand to somehow palm it away.
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Just to prove those saves were no flukes, Marshall used his legs to deny Zamora.
So, a million quid well spent - but while everyone was enjoying the goalkeeping masterclass, the way West Ham sliced open City's defence was a major cause for concern.
How much you can read into a pre-season friendly is open to debate, especially against a team from a level as high as the Premiership, although the backing of a noisy 22,000-crowd - bigger than 19 Championship teams could average last season - certainly took away the “pre-season friendly” feeling.
Darren Huckerby's continued absence certainly changes the way this team plays and with Luke Chadwick playing a narrow left-sided role, crosses from that side were conspicuous by their absence.
Andy Hughes and Jon Otsemobor engineered little from the left, so it was up to Mark Fotheringham and Darel Russell to try the channels.
After the early struggles, City finally settled, Russell looking comfortable and taking no prisoners, with Fotheringham enjoying the responsibility of his central role.
But while City were spending more time in the Hammers' half, Green was still under-employed.
Noble gave City a timely reminder of West Ham's pedigree when Hughes' wayward header was pounced upon by Boa Morte, who slipped it right but saw the former Ipswich loan player blast it wide.
But the warning was not heeded and on 27 minutes it was Hammer time as Zamora slipped the ball inside to Boa Morte. The midfielder held it up perfectly for defender Jonathan Spector, who skipped into the area and slipped it past Marshall.
Boa Morte should have made it two on 34 minutes after Ashton set up Zamora down the left as West Ham toyed with City's defence.
Green finally had his fingers stung three minutes later, his poor throw eventually setting City free down the left where Cureton knocked it inside to Chadwick who fired in a 20-yard effort that the ex-City man palmed down with ease.
Ashton's glaring miss just before half-time after Marshall had committed himself brought more jeers from the City faithful, but a minute later he had his own revenge as the keeper could only parry Boa Morte's shot and the peroxide-haired striker hammered it home with interest.
Two goals down - and no one could argue City didn't deserve it: Grant's half-time problem was how to stem the flow of claret and blue shirts from streaming into his penalty area.
But while West Ham rearranged their back line for the second half, Grant had fewer alternatives on the bench and made his change up front, Chris Brown coming on for the ineffective Strihavka.
The best form of defence is attack, and just six minutes into the half Chadwick, pushed further up, came as close as anyone in a City shirt, lashing a shot into the side netting from just inside the area.
Lee Croft came on for Cureton as City moved to 4-3-3, Brown at the spearhead, and within minutes the plan had paid off as Croft jinked inside of McCartny on the right and sent in a cross which Brown flicked in to the far corner, leaving Green no chance.
Craig Bellamy joined the fray on 66 minutes to make up the triumvirate of ex-Canaries along with Green and Ashton, but the visitors' goal threat had faded.
Any rhythm that Grant and his opposite number Alan Curbishley were looking for began to dissipate with the substitutions, and the goal chances that came thick and fast in the opening period began to dry up as both teams settled for a result that embarrassed neither.
Norwich City: Marshall, Otsemobor, Doherty, Shackell (cpt, Spillane 90), Drury, Hughes, Russell (Martin 64), Fotheringham, Chadwick (Dublin 78), Strihavka (Brown 45), Cureton (Croft 56). Subs: Gilks, Ryan Jarvis, Rossi Jarvis, Cave-Brown.
Goal: Brown 57.
West Ham: Green, Neill (McCartney 45), Upson, Collins (Davenport 45), Spector, Bowyer, Mullins, Noble (Etherington 70), Boa Morte, Zamora (Bellamy 66), Ashton (Cole 78). Subs: Wright, Gabbidon, Pantsil, Reid.
Goals: Spector 27, Ashton 43.
Referee: Mike Thorpe.
Time added on: 1 min/3min.